3 Mindsets For a Better Year |02.04.24| What Your Life Is Missing pt1.
Pastor Drew Williams
My problem started when I started reading the Bible for myself. It was this exact Bible, actually. The one given to me by my parents when I graduated 8th grade. It had gold edges on the paper, a leather binding, and my name embossed on the front.
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And you can tell how much I’ve used this, because most of the gold is rubbed off, and some of the pages have creases or my notes. That’s because I have spent many times hurriedly trying to flip through the book to find the book of Amos or the book of Romans.
All of you who use digital Bibles and are used to just “searching” for the reference you want might not know the anxiety and dread that comes over you when the pastor says, “Now open to Proverbs 2” and you have to keep flipping back and forth from the table of contents to where you’re trying to reach.
But my problem started when I started reading the Bible for myself, because what I saw in the Bible didn’t match what I saw in the churches I was a part of growing up.
I grew up going to many different churches over the years, whenever my family would move, and they were all similar in certain ways. They all had music, they all had sermons, they all had prayer.
They were all filled with people, some of them were trying to act nice to each other, some of them had forgotten how to act nice.
They all had good intentions to worship God and learn from the Bible, but, if I’m honest, they were all a little too boring. All a little too disconnected from the rest of life Monday through Saturday. All a little too safe.
And it PALED in comparison to what I was reading in the Bible.
Because when you read about Jesus, there was nothing safe about him!
He touched lepers, and he befriended prostitutes, and he recruited tax collectors to join him in his work.
And in many churches, most of those people wouldn’t be caught dead socializing with people like that! They aren’t open-minded enough. They’re a little too judgmental of people like that. And yet, when you see how their lives the rest of the week don’t really match up to how they act in church, you could see why people think Christians are hypocritical.
But Jesus? He LOVED those who hated him! He blessed those who persecuted him.
He welcomed ALL the people that religion rejected.
You see, my problem started when I started reading the Bible for myself, because the churches I was a part of paled in comparison to the devotion, the unapologetic love, the radical generosity, and the bold faith that I saw in Scripture.
And 14 years ago, this church started because of a conviction that the Bible isn’t just a set of stories to learn from, but the Bible is the authoritative Word of God.
It’s actually God’s Word, for us and to us, and it has authority over how we are to live, because it is from the One who created us and gives us life.
And ever since the beginning of this church, the mission that has existed at the center of this church is “to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ.” To be apprentices of Jesus who are fully devoted to his way of life so that we can have Transformed Hearts, Transformed Lives, Transformed Community, Transformed World.
In other words, we want to help families become Transformed by Jesus, together, for others.
We don’t want to keep living our lives in our same ways, looking no different from the world around us. We want to be transformed by Jesus to become more like him. To do the things he did.
So that we can join Jesus in his work of growing together, of reaching out and serving others, so that the whole world may be saved by grace through faith.
To that end, we are starting a new series called, “What Your Life is Missing,” because we want to be transformed together by Jesus so that our church looks more and more like Jesus, and today we’re talking about 3 Mindsets for a Better Year. (PRAY)
Let’s open our Bibles to Acts chapter 2, which can be found in the black seat-back Bibles on p???? Of the NT. This picks up the story after Jesus spend three years with his disciples, with his apprentices, teaching how to become like him and to continue his work of welcoming more and more people into the new life available in the kingdom of God.
And then Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. But he proved he had the power to beat death when he was resurrected. He spent a few weeks with his followers, giving them encouragement, growing their faith, and giving them final instructions to go and make disciples of everyone.
And soon after that, Peter preached the good news of Jesus as king and over 3,000 people believed and joined the movement of Jesus that day. And that first group then began to live out what it means to BE the church, and that’s what we find in Acts 2:42-47. Let’s read…
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This is written in my Bible next to this passage: the early church was awesome. You see, my problem started when I started to read the Bible for myself, because it didn’t match what I saw in the church.
What I saw in the church was much more like a different version of the Bible, called the modern day version. I borrowed this from Pastor Craig Groeschel, and this is a made-up translation from his sermon on this topic:
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They were devoted to their comfort, happiness, personal goals, dreams, and bucket lists. No one really noticed the Christians because they focused on themselves. Very few of the believers were together, and when they were, they fought about stupid things. If they sold anything, they used the money to buy something better for themselves. They claimed to love God, but they didn’t even love each other. So they felt empty, alone, and depressed. As a result, most people disliked them and very few lives were changed. Acts 2:42-47 MDV
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This is clearly NOT the type of life we were made for. This is NOT the type of family our church is called to be. God has something MUCH BETTER in mind for us.
But in order to get a different outcome for our church, we need to have some different mindsets. And there are three mindsets from Acts 2 that help guide our church values so that we can become like the early church.
We will be intensely DEVOTED to Jesus. Our passage begins with that word, “devoted,” and it’s a very important word, because it shows us what followers of Jesus are called to do.
The greek word used here for “devoted” means to stand ready, to be busily ENGAGED, to keep close company.
Pastor Craig’s definition is “to live in a constant state of relentless pursuit; persistent, ongoing, obstinate devotion.” That’s why we talk about being apprentices of Jesus.
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Because we know what apprentices do, right? A veterinarian apprentice, an electrician apprentice, a carpentry apprentice…they show up earlier than the one they are studying under. They stay later. They watch everything the master does. They match them move for move. They constantly ask questions about why they are doing certain things, and they do their best to learn not only the trade, but the character of the one they are studying under.
Because, they don’t just want to learn ABOUT the trade, they want to BECOME like the one they are studying under.
My problem started when I started reading the Bible for myself, because the churches I was a part of didn’t always look like the people in Scripture who apprenticed under Jesus. I know MY life definitely didn’t look like that.
Instead, I treated following Jesus like I was a student, learning all the information I could ABOUT the Bible. Going to multiple Bible studies, memorizing scripture, debating the differences between translations, critiquing sermons for whether they were “Biblical enough.”
Those things on their own can be good, but students learn in order to pass a test. In order to demonstrate knowledge. But followers of Jesus aren’t called to KNOW the most knowledge or pass a test. We are called to learn from Jesus so that we can LIVE like Jesus.
Other people will treat being a part of a church like being part of a club. They support the club, raise funds for the club, participate in the club’s activities, and invite their friends to join the club.
Again, these aren’t bad things at all! But when that’s ALL that being part of a church is for someone, the connection is too small. People in clubs stay in clubs because it makes them happy or fulfills their life. But as soon as it’s too much work, or doesn’t have the things they like any more, or their friends aren’t as involved any more, then they leave the club. Or, they claim to still be a “part” of the club, even though they never show up and it doesn’t affect the rest of their life.
But being a follower of Jesus, being an apprentice of Jesus isn’t about making us HAPPY, it’s about making us HOLY, transforming us to be more and more like Jesus so that we can join his work of serving the world and inviting them into a life of salvation.
We want to be intensely to devoted to Jesus as a church, because that’s what the first church was like. And the truth is that everyone is already devoted to SOMETHING.
Many people are devoted to their kids, rearranging their schedule, investing all their money, making sacrifices…for their kids. Other people are devoted to financial success. They learn about investment opportunities, they talk about ways to make some extra cash, they justify purchases based on whether or not the truck will be an income generator or not.
Others are devoted to their house, or devoted to having the best vacation.
But the first church? They were DEVOTED to Jesus. Because of who Jesus is, and how he continually transformed their lives and hearts, they were devoted to the Word of God, to fellowship together with other apprentices, and devoted to prayer.
Because we want to be a church family that is transformed by JESUS, we want to be intensely DEVOTED to Jesus. But because we are BEING transformed by Jesus, we’re also going to start looking like him.
So the second mindset for us is that we will be radically generous. Remember what our passage said? The people were devoted to Jesus, and it caused a stir. “Awe came upon everyone.” There was something remarkable about the early church, which caused people to REMARK about it. The transformation was NOTICEABLE.
And one of the things that was most noticeable was the fact that they held their stuff in “common.” They sold their possessions and gave to anyone in need. I mean, when have you EVER heard a pastor encourage you to do that?! To sell something so that you can be more generous and join Jesus in his work of meeting needs?
That’s what the early church did! They knew that they had received everything from God already! Everything they had: their stuff, their money, their energy, the breath in their lungs…all of it was a gift from God. And he had entrusted it all to them to STEWARD it. To manage it well and use it for his work.
And as we become transformed by Jesus, we want our church to live that way as well. That’s why we say that we will lead the way with radical generosity. We have freely received God’s radical grace, and we choose to respond with radical generosity of our time, our energy, and our finances. We truly believe it is more blessed to give that to receive.
If we want our lives to be headed in the direction of Jesus, then the three mindsets we can adopt this year are to be intensely devoted to Jesus, to be radically generous, and to unapologetically share the love of Jesus.
This is what we see in Acts: the first church were a group that were fully DEVOTED to Jesus, and it transformed them to look more and more like Jesus, and so “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Every single day, the gospel was being shared with those who didn’t know God yet, and God was calling them to receive his salvation, and they were joining in as apprentices of Jesus.
Every day, at least one person was accepting Jesus’ invitation of salvation by grace through faith. That’s at least 365 people a year!
Do you know what it would take for our church to join in Jesus’ work like this? Every single Sunday, we have between 250-300 people worship with us in person, and probably 30-50 more regularly worship with us online.
If each one of us shared our faith with just ONE person this year, that could lead to a daily number of new people accepting Jesus and apprenticing their lives to him.
If each one of us would make it a regular practice to pray for opportunities, to pray for their neighbors. If each one of us would make it a habit to invite someone new to be a part of a marriage seminar, or a finance class, or to join in for a fun event like our Harvest Fest or Christmas Bash.
If each one of us made it a regular habit to invite someone new to join us for Easter, or to serve with you next time you’re helping to usher or helping to set up for an event.
If we were to make that a habit, if we were DEVOTED to that sort of lifestyle, you just KNOW that God would work through that to work in the hearts of the people we are reaching out to.
Because we are the CHURCH. We are the family of God. We are spiritual contributors, not spiritual consumers. This isn’t a club that exists for US. We exist for others.
We unapologetically share the love of Jesus. We join Jesus in his work of reaching those far from him. Jesus would leave the 99 to find the lost one. So will we. We don’t apologize about reaching people who are far from God. We do everything with this person in mind. This is what fuels our faith.
That’s why we focus on offering things for our community that meet them in THEIR lives and THEIR circumstances, so that we can introduce them to the love and Jesus and invite them to follow him.
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That’s why we focus on serving whole families, because what we do here influences the rest of our lives, and we believe that we grow best in community with other people, other ages, other experiences.
That’s why we focus on life groups, because we know for a FACT that following Jesus can’t be done alone. It is a joy to be transformed together for others. We show this through love and care for each other and honoring one another to glorify God.
That’s why our focus this year is helping over 300 people take next steps in their faith. Because everyone has a next step in following Jesus, in growing in their devotion to Jesus, in responding to his gift of grace for the first time maybe even.
We are the church, and we exist for others. And I want to invite you to take YOUR next step in becoming even more involved in this mission with us as a church.
Join in! Because we are helping people become transformed by Jesus, together, for others. Because that’s how we join Jesus’ work of redeeming and restoring every part of creation.
So what’s YOUR next step? How can you get involved? How can you continue to change your DEVOTION towards Jesus? I’m glad you asked, because I’ve got a couple ideas for you.
Read God’s Word. You might already do this, or you might want to recommit to this, but be careful. Because God’s Word is alive and active, and reading it regularly WILL change you. It WILL start to form your devotion towards Jesus.
You could SERVE in church. We’ve got all types of serve team opportunities, and we believe that each and every person has been designed by God with unique gifts to be used for God’s work. And we want to help you discover and use those gifts. But be careful, because serving is addictive! Using your gifts in ways that help others become transformed by Jesus becomes a thing that will change what your heart focuses on.
You can join a Life Group. Because we were made to grow together in community. But be careful, because when you start to open up your life to others and point each other to Jesus, you might be changed to do the things that Jesus did more. You might find yourself bringing a casserole to someone who is sick. You might partner together with your life group to purchase school supplies for a family in need. You might even start to LOOK for more opportunities to join Jesus in his work out in our community.
Another way to get involved with the work of Jesus is to Start Tithing. But I’ve got to warn you, because your heart follows where you give. When you follow the wisdom of Scripture and give to God first in your finances, your devotion will move from other things to the things that Jesus cares about. Your joy will be less and less about those other things we spend money on and more and more about how God is at work around us because we see how God can work through our giving in a much bigger way when we partner together than any good that we could do on our own.
Or maybe one of your next steps is to pray daily. But you’ve got to be careful, because when you commit to praying regularly, it WILL change you. You’ll see miracles. You’ll see God at work in your life and the lives of the people you’re praying for. Your devotion will grow towards Jesus and those he loves.
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Where is your life headed right now? What are you devoted towards? Where is the relentless pursuit of your heart taking you? What is the persistent focus of your mind directing your life towards?
Because if it’s anything other than towards becoming transformed by Jesus, together, for others, then your life is missing out. You’re missing out in seeing God move in your life. You’re missing out in seeing Jesus’ love spread throughout our whole community. You’re missing out in growing as an apprentice of Jesus who is becoming more like Jesus and doing the things he did.
Church isn’t a place we go to. We ARE the church. This is who we are. We are the family of God. The Body of Christ. And when we are intensely DEVOTED to Jesus, God works powerfully through us!
Imagine what God could do through just our church! Too many of our loved ones and friends wander like prodigals, lost in the endless search for a fulfilled life. But what if we could guide them back, not to a building, but to a family? A family that builds together, strengthens others together, and grows together. A family where friends feel like siblings, and strangers become family.
Imagine a community, not as a crumbling old shack but as a grand home, constructed brick by brick on the unshakable foundation of Jesus.
Where every brick represents a transformed life, every room a family reconnected, and every window a glimpse into the next ten years; where we see the Sauk Valley filled with hundreds of families who have unshakeable marriages, kingdom-focused financial health, deep personal faith in Jesus, and who are joining Jesus in his work to transform the lives of their friends and neighbors.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. Let’s build stronger families, equip apprentices of Jesus, and ensure a brighter future for the Church and the Sauk Valley. Because God is at work, Jesus’ love is for everyone, and the Holy Spirit is empowering us. Isn’t that good news?